Saturday, January 16, 2021

The plight of the lost dog

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Play reveals the journey of migrants here and their tenuous sense of belonging By SUJITH KRISHNAN

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As Rashma Kalsie drove along the Great Ocean Road one day, she came across a dog that seemed separated from its owner.

“I was awestruck by this poor being, a lost dog, looking high and dry on the streets,” she recalls.

The anguish of the creature remained with her. It led her to write a creative piece that has now been transformed into a play, called what else, The Lost Dog.

“The character of the dog is a metaphor in the play to draw a parallel between the sense of loss a dog feels on being separated from his master and juxtaposing it with the sense of alienation immigrants experience away from home,” explains Kalsie.

The play was staged at the Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre in Dandenong in late July.

Describing the play, Kalsie says, “The story unfolds in present times and explores the attempts of an immigrant protagonist at acculturation in a foreign country. It also tells how immigrants strive to make another country their own, and the emptiness they deal with in the process”.

The play begins with two friends, Gurwinder aka Gary and Pawan, enjoying the scenic view from a restaurant along the Great Ocean Road. While Gary is the oh-so-cool bloke in favour of almost everything Australian, Pawan is the typical Indian boy gradually finding his feet in the country. The lost dog, literally played by Rakshith, constantly hovers around the two main protagonists and despite its inability to communicate, forms a major fulcrum of the entire play. Events take a turn when Gary and Pawan come to know of an Indian student attacked by a group of Australian thugs, and this is when they feel that the life of a migrant is comparable with that of the lost dog. However, despite their fear and hesitancy to mix with Australians with the ongoing flurry of attacks on Indians, they come to the conclusion that Australians are really a friendly lot when they run into Mike and Philip.

The screenplay is wonderfully written with bouts of humour thrown in, and ends on a happy note with an original song written by Kalsie herself and executed to perfection by Gary, Pawan and Rakshith. The entire team received a standing ovation for the fabulous performance.

Now that tensions and conflict between Indians and Australians have ceased and also with the ABC’s Dumb Drunk and Racist shattering Indian stereotypes about Australians, why touch on the sensitive issue of racism?

Kalsie responds, “Literature must chronicle issues; it’s the responsibility of the playwright to express truth for posterity”.

She goes on to say, “Racial hostility is not an act of personal whim but a collective sub-conscious element that forms a part of our psyche, and it has to be exorcised. Moreover, racial prejudice has been passed on from one generation to another and is not formed in a day. And, to top it all, the play goes beyond the issue of racism and also talks of displacement, a sense of loss that immigrants feel having left their home country”.

To quote from the play, “Metaphorically speaking, as and when the tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface move, they bring about a change on the surface as well, like an earthquake or a tsunami. That is exactly what is happening here; immigrants are the tectonic plates beneath and the natives are the surface – one cannot move without affecting the other”.

It’s been quite a demanding journey to get this play up and running, Kalsie reveals. She had to brazen out denials from all and sundry with regard to financing this project. But she never gave up and eventually managed to convince the council of the city of Greater Dandenong and Netorbis, a social media application, into offering some form of assistance.

This talented wordsmith came out with her first novel as a teenager and has never looked back since. Kalsie has written articles for several leading magazines in India such as Woman’s Era and has also been actively involved as a playwright in theatre including The Want of a Man which was selected as an entry into the Onassis Play competition in Greece in 2003.

Having juggled with various genres and mediums over the years, apart from being an independent playwright/writer, Kalsie is also the editor of Passion for Prose – a website for emerging writers. Moreover, she is actively involved with the Hansadhwani Foundation, an Indian NGO dedicated to arts and pedagogy. She is currently working on a novel and an anthology of stories.

Kalsie currently has her hands full with several projects in the offing: a novel based on fantasy in collaboration with author Phil Cherry who has published books on Kindle, a production titled Arrangements of Love, an anthology of stories, and she is also planning on starting an association for drama aficionados for Indians in Melbourne.

Kalsie is surely a personality to watch out for in the coming years.

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